Nathan Drake may have semi-retired after Unchartered 4: A Thief’s End, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t relics to be found, lost cities to be uncovered, history to be mined and adversaries to outwit… and so the torch/goblet/whip is passed to Chloe Frazer, a woman who has the same eye for historical treasures but a little less of the altruistic methods.
After a colleague goes missing, Chloe hires mercenary Nadine Ross to help her track a fabled artefact – the Tusk of Ganesha – through India and to hopefully keep it out of the hands of warlord and ruthless arms-dealer Asav. There are plenty of obstacles to face along the way, some from modern humans, some ancient traps set centuries before, but as the two women tackle a first-hand lesson in historical power-plays, their greatest trick may be surviving each other’s agenda…
There’s been quite a lot of interest in the popular franchise Unchartered in recent years, not least of which has been an announcement of progress in bringing the character of Nathan Drake to the big-screen (though, unexpectedly, starting with a younger version of the character to be played by Spider-man‘s Tom Holland). In the meantime, the computer game version keeps going strong with the latest – The Lost Legacy – out this week.
Those existing fans of the best-selling series may find more than an echo of deja-vu coming into play – clearly a view that if it’s working don’t vary too far from the formula. The actions and controls are largely the same as before and the various problems to be solved are just taxing enough to keep you frustrated for a while before a solution presents itself (the lock-picking motif is a nice addition). There are some moments where the cliff-faces being climbed and the crumbling towers and collapsing walkways feel they’ve been lifted wholesale from Unchartered 4 and the blueprints merely given a fresh coat of paint, but that doesn’t spoil the basic enjoyment as you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.
While the last Unchartered took us all over the world, Lost Legacy is set entirely in India and it’s this aspect that provides one of the game’s major triumphs and minor obstacles. On one hand you have to congratulate the programmers and designers for the simply majestic backdrops and interactive components of the story. There’s clearly been a lot of loving research done when plotting out the major historical beats and themes that drive the story and puzzles and if there’s sometimes a little TOO much information or a complication over just why you’re performing a certain task, then it’s nice that so much attention has been paid rather than the reverse – your Hindu 101 gets its binary bitmaps right here. The only hiccup is once you head out into the rural mountain-scapes, it’s very easy to get turned around and to lose track of where you are and have just been. More than once the travelling jeep took me around another bushy outcrop only for me to rush into a ruin and realise I’d just been there minutes before but from the opposite side. Essentially, after a while all the derelict religious temples start to look the same from the outside. Chloe does have a map which can help with this side of things (and which, in a subtle but programming masterstroke does get updated as we go along) but a permanent on-screen compass might be a nice addition to proceedings for any future chapters.
It’s good to have a female-led game and plot that doesn’t overtly pander to unrealistic cleavage and sexuality. Chloe Frazer may have the smarts and resilience of Lara Croft, but attractive though she undoubtedly is, the physique is not out of proportion and the whole personality and persona feels well-rounded. Again, the programming allows Chloe to be her own character rather than a female version of previous pivot Nathan Drake (though the moves and techniques remain fairly similar) but there’s much credit to be taken for Claudia Black imbuing her with zeal and foibles alike. Black voiced Chloe for her first appearance in Unchartered 2 but we’ve come a long way since then and the Farscape/Stargate actor draws on her previous television characters to give Chloe the kind of essential and organic charisma necessary to build a story around.
South African Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey), previously an antagonist to the brothers Drake, gets much more time here as Frazer’s semi-reluctant partner and the fact that neither of the characters have quite the clear moral centre we’ve seen before adds to the frisson. It’s rare to get that dynamic right and interesting in a game to this extent.
Depending on how die-hard you are, there’s a decent amount of game-play for your money. Though I completed the $39.99 in just two days, it’s the equivalent of spending about a collective eight hours if you’re committed (or should be). Essentially this is a ‘best of…‘ in many of the story-telling elements it brings to the table, not new but very shiny and entertaining and giving us heroes (or anti-heroes) that it’s hard not to cheer for…but unless that lack of narrative boundary-pushing a deal-breaker (and it shouldn’t be) that’s no bad thing.
Publisher Naughty Dog have another winner…
Unchartered: The Lost Legacy is published by Naughty Dog and is available now for the PS4…
- Voice Talent9
- Sufficient Difficulty9